Library Dissertation Showcase

Anthroponymy and the Danelaw: Adopting Socio-onomastic approaches

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2020

The Scandinavian settlement of England has long proven a subject of heated historiographical debate; one principally oriented on trying to discern its social, cultural, and political impact. In recent years, however, the work of Hadley and her peers has provided a dramatic upheaval of regional interpretations, offering a sociologically-based approach that has shifted attention away from the tired questions of the migration’s scale, density, and ethnic-composition, towards more complex interpretations centred on the event’s sociocultural impact. In light of this historiographical shift, this paper will argue that there has been a distinct failure to ‘modernise’ the use of the region’s anthroponymic evidence, and that the adoption of socio-onomastic principles, whereby names are considered as part of the social context of human interaction, could provide a meaningful way for studies to adapt to these recent historiographical changes. Beginning with an extended review of the subject’s historiography, focus will then shift to consider the ways in which the Danelaw’s onomastic evidence has traditionally been transposed to historical studies into the region. Noting the problematic use of outdated historical and onomastic frameworks, it will argue that socioonomastics allows for research to move beyond its problematic reliance on evaluating the settlement’s scale, and provides a foundation on which future research can adopt closer interdisciplinary approaches. In doing so, the 12th century Revesby Abbey foundation charter will be used to provide a practical example of how socio-onomastic principles can be applied, using this to promote its adoption by future research into the region.

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